NEW DELHI: For the first time, Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed AWACS, its 'eyes in the sky', over the Bay of Bengal during the joint exercise TROPEX, witnessed by Defence Minister A K Antony, with live firing of missiles including indigenous BrahMos.
Antony was on a two-day visit to the Bay of Bengal on-board INS Viraat to witness the naval exercise TROPEX which also included frontline aircraft of the Air Force including the Su-30 MKI and mid-air refuller IL-78.
Addressing the sea and air warriors from INS Viraat, the Defence Minister said that by early next year the Navy is likely to operate one more aircraft carrier Vikramaditya and the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier some years later.
Noting that 26/11 Mumbai attack changed the security matrix, he said, "The entire nation now acknowledges the critical requirement of maritime security and the important role of Indian Navy. Wherever we go, Indian Navy is the most sought after service and numerous countries want more cooperation with it."
During the exercise, Su-30 MKI, Mirages and Jaguars aircraft were directed by an IAF AWACS which was operating over sea for first time, a Indian Navy spokesperson said.
The aircraft successfully tested the air defence capability of INS Viraat even as the naval ships under its command were operating in a multi-threat scenario, he said.
Navy had pitched in with over forty surface combatants of various classes, submarines and a large number of aircraft including UAVs for the exercise.
The Defence Minister witnessed a successful and impressive launch of the BrahMos supersonic long range anti-ship missile from a recently up-graded INS Ranvir class destroyer.
Antony was also shown the skills of the Marine Commandos (MARCOS) as they carried out a precision landing on the flight deck of INS Viraat in middle of sea using Combat Free Fall technique.
Several new platforms, weapons sensors, communication systems and tactics were tested to optimise the net combat power of two participating naval fleets, the spokesperson said.
The recently upgraded naval aircraft Sea Harriers also proved ITS lethality with ITS ranges extended by air-to-air refuelling and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.
The Defence Minister witnessed the successful interception of a fast, low flying, surface-to-surface missile by a surface to air missile, he said.
The exercise will continue over the next few days during which the Navy will practice successful launches and interception of missile while working without interruption in seamless and networked environment.
Defence Minister was accompanied by Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Naval Command Vice Admiral A K Chopra.